Bee Season

HOW DO YOU SPELL SMOTHERING? Gere hovers over his daughter's studies.
HOW DO YOU SPELL SMOTHERING? Gere hovers over his daughter's studies.

Time Out says

American films aren't exactly known for tackling subjects like transcendentalism, so you have to give credit to any studio movie that focuses on seeking God in the details of daily life. The people at the center of Scott McGehee and David Siegel's drama all grasp for personal connections to a higher power: Dad (Gere) is a college professor obsessed with Jewish mysticism, Mom (Binoche) turns stolen trinkets into totems, and their son seeks solace in the local Hare Krishna hangout. Only the preternatural ability of 12-year-old daughter Eliza (Cross) to visualize language suggests true divination, allowing the wunderkind to rise up the ranks of the spelling-bee circuit. Eliza's control-freak father sees her gift as the missing link in his studies. Everyone else in the family thinks she's the final fissure in their crumbling facade of happiness.

While the directors intertwine the various strands of existential ennui into one large domestic crisis, it's Siegel and McGehee's ability to render individual spiritual yearning with restraint—the quiet desperation in Mom's coded kleptomania, or the just-north-of-twee visions that Eliza experiences during competition—that makes Bee Season stand out. Alas, the film's gossamer grace can't keep it from gradually devolving into the rote bourgeoisie-blues rut. The movie's sincere attempt to deal with afflictions of the soul in a muted, mature way is impressive; the way it eventually loses faith in its own search for enlightenment is nothing short of disappointing.—David Fear



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